Steamboat groups team up to tackle mental health issues

United Way grant to help fund Sept. 24 conference

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For more information, call Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide Executive Director Ronna Autrey at 970-846-8182, or Sandy Dye, of the Jeffrey Allen Dye Suicide Prevention Project at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, at 970-879-9105.

— Three groups are coming together to provide a service about an issue that affects the Yampa Valley.

Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, the Jeffrey Allen Dye Suicide Prevention Project at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation and the Yampa Valley Medical Center recently were awarded a grant from Routt County United Way that will pay for the “Yampa Valley Community Mental Health Conference: Building a Caring Community.”

“Because three of us have a shared interest in this and because of the escalation of self-harm in the community, it became apparent we needed to do something,” said Sandy Dye, founder of the Jeffrey Allen Dye Suicide Prevention Project.

Dye said the $10,000 Arthur E. Anderson Community Im­­pact Grant from the local chapter of United Way will help pay for the conference scheduled for Sept. 24 at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort.

REPS Executive Director Ronna Autrey said Routt and Moffat counties are among the highest in the state in terms of per capita suicides. There were 11 suicides in Routt County last year and 118 attempts.

Autrey, Dye and hospital CEO Karl Gills said the conference would include speakers, breakout sessions and other resources about mental health-related topics for community members, youths, educators, mental health and medical practitioners, and health and human services agencies.

“We need people to understand that these are diseases claiming lives, and it’s preventable,” Autrey said.

She said keynote speaker Tina Meier, who lost her daughter to suicide in 2006 after she was cyber bullied, would talk to students at each Routt County high school and private school as well as at Moffat County High School and elsewhere in Craig.

Dye said the purpose of the conference is to provide mental health education and awareness while making resources available for people who need them in a safe and comfortable environment.

Autrey, Dye and Gills said they continue to get support from other agencies such as the Office of Suicide Prevention, part of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Colorado West Mental Health.

A committee of United Way board of directors members chose the three organizations from among six applicants for the grant, which was awarded for the fourth time in honor of Anderson, a longtime Steamboat resident.

“We had a lot of choices,” said board member Rosemarie Smith, a member of the grant committee. “But to me, I was an advocate for this one because it was geared toward suicide, bullying and those sorts of things. I think a lot of people don’t want to recognize that it’s as big a problem as it is in Steamboat. Sometimes it gets swept under the rug.”

Dye said organizers intend to hold the conference annually in an effort toward continual education and awareness about mental health issues.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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